Brian Crabtree, alongside partner Kelli Cain, nicely exemplifies a lot of this site’s raison d’être over the the past ten years. Artmaker and toolmaker are indistinct roles; they’re both flipsides of the act of making.

The monome, the invention for which Brian is best known, is at first blush nothing more than a box of buttons. It’s even lifeless until connected to a computer. But in its design is a statement that draws a thread from the design of tools to the design of music. Ideas about compositional technique are embodied in the software; notions of aesthetics are evident in every detail of construction, material, and sourcing. The same is true of its successors, arc and the ultra-limited aleph.

This is a tool that is also a sculpture – music made into an object. (The Museum of Modern Art and LA County Museum of Art each took notice. But maybe it’s more important than a community of musicians did.)

In other words, Brian has been doing what composers do. He’s been externalizing ideas about design and aesthetic, encoding messages about what beauty is.

In some ways, though, you need that musical soundtrack to fully decode the message. And so it’s significant to me that we have some of Brian’s first recorded music in a long time. (He’s been active in live performance, but hasn’t committed anything to an ‘album,’ as such.)

The results are beautiful, organic. Not one but two outings have debuted this summer. There’s skyclad, a four-track EP on The Leap, a label based in Boston and Santa Fe that pairs live events with releases and podcast. (It’s no stranger to the monome community.) And there’s eighteenth on Detroit Underground – a second EP. Continue reading »


SoundCloud’s On SoundCloud program, which includes the ability to add optional advertising to your content as a revenue source, is initially available only to Premier partners. Premier is a new, invite-only membership level that has extra features the rest of the community doesn’t get – though, as with advertising, SoundCloud says most of those features will eventually be available to all paid users.

But just who are those Premier partners getting the list? SoundCloud sent over the complete launch list to CDM so we can all have a look. It includes some big names (Sony, BMG), but also artists, comedy content, and podcasts.

What these users get that the rest of us don’t:
1. A “visual” profile (looks different than the standard profile page)
2. More stats, additional account management support
3. Geographic controls (for restricting content by region)
4. The ability to have promoted tracks/profiles
5. Revenue sharing from ads (though eventually, you’ll get that, too)

SoundCloud had previously said even things like new profile looks will eventually be available to others.

Despite all the speculation about Universal Music Group and whatnot, what you get is sort of a random sprinkling of different kinds of content. As it has since SoundCloud’s founding, electronic dance music is featured heavily – though it’s more mainstream-focused channels, not the likes of M-nus Records or Warp or Ghostly or the like. (In fact, labels don’t really feature so heavily here at all.) You’ll also notice that spoken word – a big focus for SoundCloud – is represented. So this isn’t just about music, either. And for those of you listening from the United States, these are the ads you’ll be hearing. Continue reading »

The Riser, the new synth from German developer AIR, isn’t shy about what it’s for.

This is a synth to make rises and drops aimed squarely at EDM fans. Dial up presets, turn some knobs, and sync up absurd rhythmic builds, like pumping chart-topping performance-enhancing drugs into your music. What makes it interesting is, it’s a synth. It isn’t another sample library, so you can actually control the results and make something original.

And if that’s what you want to do, you can do it right now for free – sort of. There’s a 2-week unlimited demo version – but only if you download it within the next 48 hours. After that, the demo goes away. (It then goes on sale on the 1st of September for US$79.99, AU, VST, AAX; 32­- and 64­-bit; OS X or Windows.)

That also gives a clue to how they expect this app to be used. It’s so quick at generating EDM drops, you won’t need it for longer than two weeks. After that, we expect to see you on the DJs complaining Twitter feed griping about how the cocaine on your private jet isn’t as good as it was last week.

You know what this means. Obligatory SoundCloud embed!

AIR is AIR Music Technology, the ex-Wizoo development house that’s now part of InMusic. And as such, they have some synth development chops. So, once you delve into the synth, it’s actually pretty powerful.

The basic idea is this. It’s a “transition designer.” You use a sweep, noise, or a chord as a source. Add LFOs for pumping and tempo effects – synced to your track. Then add effects (delay, reverb, pan, stereo width). Watch: Continue reading »


Convincing musicians to make use of sound is easy. And electronic musicians are even content with stunningly-complex interfaces, in exchange for deep control of sound.

But what about everyone else?

Users on mobile are certainly uploading sounds. Part of the intense interest in SoundCloud even outside music and audio audiences is simple to explain: the site is ridiculously popular. By 2012, it had reached 10 hours of uploads per minute. And once sound is uploaded, it attracts listeners. As of last fall, users had skyrocketed from 200 to 250 million users in just a few months. That’s another reason last week’s ad plans are worth watching.

If SoundCloud facilitates uploading, storage, and sharing, the next frontier may be all about the interface for producing sounds in the first place. App developers have likely already saturated the expert music production market with designs that appeal to that crowd. But just as quick and easy UIs for text and images have popularized those means of communication, sound may require a fresh approach. And a few developers are betting on that possibility in interesting ways. Continue reading »


Money at SoundCloud has in the past flowed in one direction: you, the uploader, pay for premium plans, and SoundCloud gets the cash. Now, for the first time, money is going the other way – from the service to artists and labels.

In the process, that means one significant change: SoundCloud listeners will begin to hear ads.

It’s been interesting to watch the reaction – from people losing their minds over ads appearing on the service to more measured responses and genuine interest in the service “growing up” and adding income to become sustainable. This of course collides with worries about SoundCloud’s recent deals with major labels. Clarification: SoundCloud has not announced any such deals; while there has been public discussion about majors and their role on SoundCloud, those discussions are in fact speculative. But before we get into opinions about the changes, let’s first understand just what has changed for those of us who use the service.

SoundCloud is this week rolling out advertising, first to their invite-only premier partners – that is, producers like big labels or publishers (including titans Sony and BMG). Later on, says SoundCloud, those those ads are also will be available as an option for all paid users who want to earn money from their content.

In addition to the advertising option, SoundCloud has also adjusted its plans. Here are the facts. Continue reading »


Ableton Live’s iPad-augmented control can take some forms. There are apps that do everything, replicating the mouse so that you can go directly to touch for every single task and avoid your computer completely (Touchable, for instance). There are specialized controllers, which focus on a few tasks or a particular device or Max patch.

And then there’s Conductr, and it’s something a bit different.

First, as of June, it’s free – or freemium, anyway. The free version is limited to four tracks and eleven scenes, but it’s enough to give you a taste. And with user modules, it’s easily a workable complement to other controllers like Push, even without touching the in-app purchases. (That seems to me a use of in-app purchases that actually makes sense.)

But most importantly, Conductr focuses on giving you controls that are well suited to the iPad. This isn’t about the iPad screen pretending to be hardware faders and knobs, or about cramming a mouse-style interface under your fingers. Instead, the Barcelona-based developers of Conductr have made an interface that intentionally does less. It’s cleaner, easier to see, and less crowded. You can leave just a few controls, use gestural controllers, and even set up layouts that don’t require you to look at your iPad. As a keyboardist, and someone who finds the iPad sometimes as clumsy as I do invaluable, it’s great.

And today’s update is really the best development of that concept. The XY-4D is simply the best X/Y controller I’ve seen on the iPad yet. It’s totally user assignable, and makes your iPad into something like a 21st Century, Star Trek-chic KAOSS Pad.


There’s a single user-assignable XY-4D pad now free in the free edition of Conductr, so you don’t have to listen to me drone onto it, but here’s what it does: Continue reading »

You know that saying about everything looking like a nail when all you’ve got is a hammer? Well, someone got a little carried away dreaming of wires, and it seems they’ve now a module that can begin to see all kinds of objects and substances as control voltage.

We’ve seen a new collections of modules and tools. And it turns everything in the world into a modular synthesizer input and output.

We already knew the strange and wonderful Czech team of Bastl Instruments (of Standuino fame) were up to some weird science. It just got a whole lot weirder. Sure, everyone and their cat is now planning a Eurorack modular. But not everyone has one that talks to lava lamps.


They explain: Continue reading »